My letter to OWC after they cheated me on an SSD

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by econgeek, Nov 26, 2011.

  1. econgeek macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2009

    As a preamble to this history, I want you to know that I studied electrical engineering in college, and have been professionally developing software for 20+ years. I understand the electronic and software issues of flash at a fairly detailed level, including the method by which sandforce controllers compress data and arrange it in the flash address space, and such things as, for instance, the mechanism by which individual flash bits store data and degrade over time.

    To bring you up to speed, here's what's occurred so far:

    March 10, 2011: I bought an SSD (OWCDDMBSSD120) in order number [redacted]
    ~March 15, 2011: You ship the order
    April 4th, 2011: I receive the SSD (I'm in england, takes time for things to cross the pond and clear customs, but all told this is reasonably fast.)
    April 12th, 2011: I contact OWC Customer Service, get non-responsive response on 4/13. This is less than 30 days after you ship.
    April 13th, 2011: Request RMA [RMA-number] RMA Request-[RMA-request-number] because the drive does not work. If you will review your email, you will notice that I said the issue was intermittent, but often resulting in inability for computer to see the drive.
    April 13th, 2011: Request Refund after drive is returned, told that your "guarantee" is for 30 days after *order placed*, meaning you effectively only guaranteed drive for 9 days (or 26 days after you shipped.)
    April 14th, 2011: I attempt to discuss the issue with your CSR, but it becomes clear they can't help diagnose.
    April 16th, 2011: I returned the SSD
    April 25th, 2011: I received the *exact same* drive I RMA'd back from you. Apparently untouched (and dumped in the bottom of the box, so it shipped without any physical protection) hilariously, later your tries to snow me with BS about this. Here's the relevant quotes:
    "The box the drive was returned in had 5 sheets of foam. However, the drive was simply thrown in the box, and the 5 sheets of foam were put in on top of it. The Data Doubler was between the foam sheets, but the drive was not. If the box was knocked against a sharp object, or any object, the drive took the full force of the damage. Further, since it was just thrown in there it was not in its anti-static bag. I don't know how sensitive to static these things are, but I suspect there is a reason every manufacturer ships a drive in anti-static bags."
    "The foam inserts used are anti-static themselves; therefore do not require the SSDs to be sleeved in anti-static bags. These foam inserts eliminate the bags from being used with SSD drives, but still required with the conventional Hard Drives when being shipped. "

    But of course, the drive was not in the foam inserts. It was on the bottom, sitting next to a thin piece of cardboard that was the bottom of the box.... the bottom being, typically, the part that is slammed on shelves and truck floors when boxes are shipped.

    April 26th, 2011: Am told that "the SSD was not a failed SSD/defective SSD"
    April 28th, 2011: Attempting to determine why you claim the drive is not defective, I am met with: "no defects, or any other symptoms with this SSD that alerted us to test for any extended period of time. " -- so you didn't actually test the drive I sent back, with an *intermittent* failure because it worked immediately. "Our testing procedures, prognosis and/or repair protocols are propriety" So, you refuse to explain to me *why* you believe the drive was not defective, on a technical level. It is recommended that I use the drive for 2 weeks.

    I defer to this recommendation, against my better judgement, and use the drive. It lasts much longer than 2 weeks, in fact, it lasts all the way until October 28th, 2011. Then it failed again, taking a fair bit of work with it that occurred in the 24 hours since its last backup. Fortunately, I only lost a day, but that day is worth ten times the $279 the drive costs.

    So, in short:
    1. You refused to honor your 30 day money back guarantee.
    2. You returned the defective drive back to me.
    3. I foolishly trusted you, even though on every occasion I was snowed with BS and dishonesty from your CSR.
    4. The defective drive failed 6 months later.

    I'll be happy to return the drive again, but only for a refund,. I'm not expecting you to do the honorable thing now that the time limit for a chargeback on the credit card has expired.

    The moral of the story: I should have forced you to honor your guarantee by sending the drive back and disputing the charges on my credit card.

    One thing I can tell you is this: I won't be an OWC customer ever again, and I'm going to be letting others know about this incident.

    No longer a customer--
    [signed my name]


    In case anyone is thinking this is a stupid user problem on my part, I have Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex drives for my backup drive. The cables are essentially just an SATA connector. Its trivial to plug in bare drives to them to test. When I say the "drive failed", it failed. The internal Macbook Pro SATA connectors can't see it, and I can plug the drive into one of the FreeAgent cables any time I want, and have done so several times, including just now to verify. Disk Utility and the rest of Mac OS X cannot see the drive.

    This is, by the way, completely consistent with sand force controller failure.

    When these controllers fail, they don't physically fail, they simply paint themselves into a corner where they can't' write any more data or read any data, and so they don't respond to the computer attempting to see the drive (let alone mount it.)

    Flashing the controller, as they did when they got my drive back, resets the problem obviously, but didn't fix the defect.

    I believe the most likely defect here is a QC defect on one of he flash chips-- either it has a largish section of cells that don't work. Or I suspect it could be a defect in the DRAM the drive uses for temporary caching, which happens only rarely, but I lucked into by having it happen the first 9 days I had the product.


    I post this here because I regularly see people say "I've never heard anything bad about MacSales", and stuff like that.

    They had 3 opportunities to make this right, and they didn't even try.
  2. happle macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2010
    sounds like a horror story. i was going to by a OWC SSD 6G too. i still might, but iv always heard OWC has great customer support. that sucks though man, i wouldn't have accepted the same drive back. do you think it was an isolated problem?
  3. Nielsenius macrumors 6502a

    Apr 16, 2011
    Damn, that really sucks! I have an OWC SSD and plan on buying another in a few months. I'm glad you posted this story here because anyone who sees it will know how to, or how not to, handle this kind of situation in the future. It was very unprofessional of them and I hope the company learns from their mistake. They might try to send you some free stuff to compensate you for your frustration and loss of time and money.
  4. econgeek thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2009
    There are two problems: The customer support and the hardware problem.

    I don't think the customer support problem is isolated. I think the customer support people are more knowledgable than the regular public, but they deal with the public all the time so they think that they're dealing with idiots. (I'll attach the verbatim email below.) So, when you ask them technical questions, or point out errors, they feel perfectly comfortable snowballing you because they are used to getting away with it. For instance, notice how she calls their testing methods "proprietary" as an excuse not to explain why they believe the drive is working (I was looking for some specific detail so that I would believe they hadn't just plugged it in, saw that it worked for a few seconds and decided to send it back. I'm convinced that's what happened after the flashed it, which obscured the problem. They're not sophisticated enough to know they need to diagnose the problem before making changes to the drive.)

    Also notice how she BSed me on the foam issue, pretending the issue was about static protection rather than the fact the the drive was thrown in, a and then the foam was put on top of it. (The foam sheets are complete, no holes, so the drive couldn't have worked its way out. They were just careless.... yet rather than apologize for this minor error that I don't really think affected anything, she tried to BS me on it.)


    The hardware problem is endemic to these kind of fancy drives. Intel and sandforce have both had these kinds of issues because their controllers are so sophisticated-- done in an attempt to give them better reliability-- that they can get stuck where they can't do anything.

    The controller has a tiny amount of RAM and a vast amount of flash. When the drive is full ,and you try to write a big file to it, it has to shuffle things around a lot to free up space... it doesn't have a lot of scratch pad to work with, and over time, as the flash degrades, this gets smaller and smaller.

    It could easily be the situation where the drive needs to effectively defragment part to free up space, but doesn't have the working space to do it. (This also explains why re-flashin the controller software resolves the issue...for awhile.)

    I think the price pressure on SSDs (And thin margins) for such an expensive product means that the flash is lower quality than it should be, or maybe even than the controllers makers are assuming, accelerating this short shelf life.

    I've had 3 SSD drives. None have lasted more than a year. This sandisk failed after 4 days and then again after 6 months. My first one failed after a year, and its replacement has lasted about a far.

    I'm back to hard drives for now.


    Verbatim Email from OWC CSR, Salutation and signature removed, otherwise unchanged:
    "Thank you for keeping me posted. I hope that throughout my response, I have addressed each question and concern that you had. If I have missed anything, please let me know.

    The foam inserts used are anti-static themselves; therefore do not require the SSDs to be sleeved in anti-static bags. These foam inserts eliminate the bags from being used with SSD drives, but still required with the conventional Hard Drives when being shipped.
    From our diagnosis, our initial testing found that the SSD only required it to be re-flashed, and updated with the most current firmware. After these changes, and further testing we found/experienced no defects, or any other symptoms with this SSD that alerted us to test for any extended period of time. If our Apple Certified Technicians found any other reporting errors or symptoms, testing would have taken concurrent validation, until duplicated.
    Our testing procedures, prognosis and/or repair protocols are propriety, and can not be disclosed to the public/market place.
    OWC takes pride in our Product lines, Customer Service, Technical support and warranty policies. I assure you that OWC is not going to ignore the reported problem(s) from any one customer. Our customers and prospect customers are our lively-hood. Most often, OWC is found by prospects through word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth marketing adds layers of credibility and we like to live up to those standards.

    What I would like to recommend is that you continue to use the SSD for an extended period of time (2 weeks), and if you find fault in usage, as previous symptoms reported, I will have that SSD come back in for extended testing, sitting at one of my Service Technician's desk. If we need to test it for 10 days, we can. However, if you do experience some of these same issues or others, I would also recommend that you speak with our Technical Support staff before calling Customer Service for the RMA. Technical Support will be able to ask all of the right troubleshooting questions, so that when the SSD comes back, if needed, the RMA will have technical diagnosis documented in the RMA notes."
  5. jenzjen macrumors 68000

    Aug 20, 2010
    Hope it works out, and your moral is right, you definitely should not have kept the drive and used it. I may have missed it, but why are you not getting at least a replacement under warranty?
  6. McGiord macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2003
    Dark Castle
    My experience with OWC has been excellent.

    One thing to consider is that sales people are not good tech support.

    In your case, I will have requested a replacement hard drive, and if the person taking care of the case doesn't understand you ask politely for another person, preferable a manager.
    I was also hesitant about getting a SSD, however so far, it has 6 months and it is working fine. I know it will not last as other HDDs, but I am only running the OS out of it.
    If you don't like SSD then ask for a full refund and get a decent hard rive instead.
    They will honor your purchase, they care, unfortunately you haven't been treated well by some of their people.
    I think that the other employees and managers will care, and will be very interested in fixing the situation for you.
  7. econgeek thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2009
    I sent them that letter a few minutes before I posted it here. I want a refund. If they offer me a replacement, what good is that? How can I trust it? How stupid would I be if I used it for 6 months and then lost another day (or even hour) worth of work when it failed?

    I've lost all confidence in this sophisticated-controller type of SSD. I'm hopeful they will do the right thing and give me a refund (actually a partial refund because part of what I paid for was a data-doubler that I'm not wanting to return.)

    IF the just replace the drive, I'll take it, and then take it apart... but I'll never trust it. ...and that also means I can't just sell it to someone else.

    Why do you assume I'm talking to a sales person? Whoever they are, they answered their CSR email and represented themselves as a CSR.

    I did ask to escalate, but they refused.

    Why do you think they care? Because most of what you've bought from them worked?

    I was a customer of theirs for a decade. Up until this point, everything I bought worked fine.

    The test of a company is not how they handle it when things go fine, but when they don't.
  8. randomrazr macrumors 65816

    Jan 1, 2011
    Are INtel SSDs good to buy? they have 5 year warrenty

    i saw a 160gb SATA II SSD on newegg from intel for 168 on sale.
  9. Minicube macrumors regular

    Jun 5, 2011
    IMO OWC tends to be a bit overpriced. I also had problems with an item I purchased, after the second one failed (I had to pay to ship back to them), I asked for a refund. Never got it.
  10. econgeek thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2009
    My first SSD was intel, and it failed after about a year. They replaced it promptly, and the replacement is still going, about a year or so later.

    I think the design is a mistake, though, and that it is inherently less reliable than a straightforward design like samsungs.

    This is why Apple ships Samsung SSDs.

    I believe it. I think that the "great customer service" is all marketing hot air. They promised me a 30 day "money back guarantee" prominently on their SSD sales page when I bought... then they didn't honor it. That should have told me that I needed to force them to via a chargeback.

    The thing is, having some good experiences with them in the past (when there were no problems) caused me to believe they were a good company.

    I think they probably employ people to go onto forums and talk them up...

    It sure seems that "You can trust OWC" is a sort of marketing effort of theirs.
  11. McGiord macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2003
    Dark Castle
    I think they will care because they had care for all my customer service requests to them.
    In my experience with them, I also had faced different issues with defective product, and they have always honor it.
    The most notorious sign of a bad customer service employee is one that doesn't want their supervisor or manager to get involved. You are right this is a fault of OWC, but even in the best companies it happens, remember you are dealing with humans, and we make mistakes.
    Only Apple really excels in this, and sometimes Netflix.

    You can try different methods to get another employee to give good customer service to you. Chat, email, phone, etc.

    But OWC has good service, in general.
    For me your case seems to be isolated based on my experience.
    Do you think a company with such poor service will last 10 years?

    ***** happens and I would re-consider them if I face something like you.
    I believe that it is worthy the time to make them know who made the mistake and they will prefer to satisfy a customer instead of "protecting" a mistaken customer service employee.

    Good luck with other companies.
  12. dpierre macrumors regular

    Sep 6, 2007
    Somewhere is the US
    I was actually going to buy an OWC drive next month, but I've been hearing not so great things about them lately. I will just spend some extra money and get a Samsung 830 series instead..
  13. happle macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2010
    so do you recommend the samsung 830 series SSD? i thought i read somewhere that its designed for windows computers so has some problems on mac? idk though, im not very knowledgable on the subject.

    but yeah hopefully they will give you a refund or at least a replacement. if i were you i would try the replacement they give you, who knows it could end up working great and lasting you years.
  14. dpierre macrumors regular

    Sep 6, 2007
    Somewhere is the US
    I was unaware that it is (possibly) Windows only. IDK why it would be, but then again I'm not an expert on storage. I just heard they're some of the most reliable on the market..
    If anyone has any knowledge of the best ssds available for OS X can you please share?
  15. jenzjen macrumors 68000

    Aug 20, 2010
    In case you hit a wall, you can at least resell the perfectly new, unused replacement to recoup your losses.

    You do understand that you have no real leg esp legally to stand on after you agreed to keep using it for 6 more months? OWC only legal responsibility to you now is to honor the warranty, i.e. get you a replacement. I hope they do more, though, since it reads like they get an F for original customer service, but it is your responsibility now since you didn't escalate with your credit card 6 months ago.

    Recast your situation with something else, say a car with a 30 day return window, and you'll see how expecting a refund now doesn't make sense.
  16. econgeek thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2009
    Hey, if anyone has an email address for someone at OWC That *has* to care, I'd love to hear it.

    Found a bio for the president:

    Claims he started the company when he was 14 years old!

    If he really stood behind the company, his email address would be on that page. It isn't. (Sure, he'd have a secretary answer it or whatever, but at least you'd be able to escalate things like this.)

    As for SSD recommendations, I'd recommend you buy one from Apple, built into your machine. This way you get Apple standing behind it.

    In the same period that SSD dropped the ball and screwed me, Apple went above and beyond the call of duty on another issue. They active proactively and resolved an issue, despite it being found on one contentment and needing to be fixed on the other (Both with very quick service at the local apple store!)

    My understanding is that Samsung makes a more reliable design because its a straightforward drive. There's a lot of nonsense and propaganda about SSDs out there.

    I trust Apple to cut thru it and pick the right solution.


    OS X doesn't support TRIM, and a lot of people say that you "need TRIM". I believe this is not true.

    If it was windows only, why would Apple be shipping it with the machines they sell?

    If I sold a replacement drive to some unsuspecting person, I'd be as guilty as OWC is in sending me a drive they knew to be defective.

    Oh, it makes perfect sense. I asked for a refund within the 30 days. They promised me they had fixed the problem, they failed.

    I don't care about what they legally owe me... I'm not talking about a court case. I'm just here to warn others that, should something like this happen to you, you can't count on them to keep their promises.

    I think that the failure to be honest is the biggest mark on them, not that a sandforce based drive failed.
  17. WAM2 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 6, 2011
    United States
    Intel,Samsung, and OCZ Make the best drives for Mac IMO.. Just make sure they are updated to the most recent firmware.
  18. dpierre macrumors regular

    Sep 6, 2007
    Somewhere is the US
  19. Ant.honey macrumors regular

    Oct 14, 2008
    New York City
    I'm sorry you had a bad experience with OWC. I have had excellent customer service from them so far.
  20. Gen macrumors 6502a


    Jul 15, 2008
    You sent that letter to OWC?
    Wow, why should they respond to that rambling? Next time, make your letter clear, precise and to point. And what's with with the ********'s in there? That's how you professionally address someone that you've asked to do something for you?
  21. MBHockey macrumors 68040


    Oct 4, 2003
    New York
    OCZ? that has to be a joke, right?

    I agree with intel and samsung, though.
  22. randomrazr macrumors 65816

    Jan 1, 2011
  23. econgeek thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2009
    I gave a timeline and relevant quotes, and you call it rambling? Oh, I get, it you're a fanboy, right? I have zero expectations that they will do anything for me, because they have shown themselves to be dishonest crooks.

    Frankly, given the lack of professionalism they've shown me --- I consider blatant, bald faced lies to be far less professional than the term "BS"--- I was quite nice to them. I took the time to review all the stages of what had occurred already, so that whoever gets that email will have some context.

    I've written them off, and the drive. I'm not begging for my money back, and I'm not expecting it. They're crooks as far as I'm concerned.

    Oh, I get it, if its more than a sentence or too its "rambling" right? Too much effort?

    Yeah, I think OCZ is very popular with people who want the latest thing and don't really take reliability seriously. They haven't gotten their act together near as I can tell, which is why I went with OWC in the first place.

    I think intel is an honorable company and will reliably give you a replacement drive and has done their best to have good engineering... but I'm not sure the state of the art with sophisticated

    I'm buying what Apple's shipping. I trust Apple more than I do any of these third parties, and way more than I see from the people on the internet.
  24. MBHockey macrumors 68040


    Oct 4, 2003
    New York
    You can't really buy what Apple's shipping, as their SSDs come with a custom firmware that they have tested in-house. You'd have to go on ebay and get one that someone pulled out of a Mac.
  25. DonMega macrumors regular

    Jul 8, 2007
    OWC failed... Send a message with your money.

    This is exactly true. I agree with you. OWC failed you and failed miserably. It seems to me that they have the consumerist mentality that everything is disposable and you should just buy a new one. In my opinion, their prices are just a little too high for that.

    They do have a hellacious marketing machine though. Lloyd of digilloyd has got to be on the payroll. If OWC was selling dog crap in a plastic baggie, Lloyd would tell you it was better than any dog crap out there.

    Someone made a remark that OCZ is a joke. My experience with SSD has been one 240GB Vertex 2 in a Late 2008 MacBook Pro and now in a Early 2011 MacBook Pro. It has been rock solid for me, but, there seem to be problems for others.

    I'm looking to purchase a new 6G SATA III SSD and I have narrowed it down to a Vertex 3 and OWC Extreme. I read the anandtech review of both of them and his take is that they are exactly the same (both use the SF2281 controller). OWC is about $40-$50 more. After reading your experience here, I'm buying the OCZ...

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